Stoneham is a rare treat – a distinctive parkland laid out on either side of a large valley by Willie Park Jr. Park, twice the Open champion in the late 19th century, in 1887 and 1889 to be precise, did not put his name to many courses but to give an idea of his pedigree, two of the others are Sunningdale Old and Huntercombe. He did a fine job at Stoneham on what was and is a challenging site. The best designers, though, make a virtue from such difficulties and the result is a course that features several memorable holes.
Recent renovation work has given this Southampton course a much-needed makeover and the result is like reacquainting oneself with an old friend.
At a shade under 6,400 yards and a par of 72, Stoneham is of manageable proportions but the scorecard cannot hope to tell the full story on a course where most holes involve a change of elevation.
That said, the rises and falls of the land in what was formerly a deer park are never so dramatic as to cause genuine difficulty with the routing. There are several blind or semi-blind drives but they only add to the enjoyment, as is so often the case on well-designed courses.
One particular highlight is the short par-4 13th, where the line is unclear from the tee, and the green is very narrow. Nevertheless, it remains temptingly in range.
The last hole is a short par 5 that climbs up towards the clubhouse – the concept of tempering the length of the hole on account of the upwards gradient simple yet so effective. Any golfer with a passing interest into intelligent utility of terrain should visit Stoneham and enjoy its challenges.